Story by Becky Speere
The poet Archestratus, author of the world’s first cookbook, would like dining here, I think, as I savor my carpaccio and sylvetta arugula appetizer: thinly sliced beef filet topped with fresh greens drizzled with truffle oil, drops of lemon juice, and shavings of salty Parmesan Reggiano. Polpette, meatballs simmered in tomato sauce and served on grilled ciabatta, are meaty without being heavy — a mouthful of long-simmered flavors. “Watching my grandmother prepare red sauce was like going to church,” says Chef Roger Stettler, whose own stamp of approval came when his mother, Maria Lucia (also a great cook), visited Maui to oversee the opening menu. Pasta made in-house is sous chef Chelsea’s sole responsibility; the texture is something you can’t capture in a boxed product. Pasta alla carbonara, tossed with pancetta, parmesan and egg, is seductively rich but light. Taverna’s signature fish preparation, with its sweet-and-sour agrodolce sauce, marries salty capers and Castelveltrano olives with honey-vinegar-simmered eggplant, a perfect foil to the fatty richness of salmon, the fish du jour. Cap the meal with ristretto and grappa a la Chef Roger, who says, “Stir a little sugar into the espresso and drink that quickly; swirl a little grappa in the cup to capture the rest of the espresso and sugar; then drink the rest of the grappa.” Buon gusto!
2000 Village Rd., Kapalua
THE PRESERVE KITCHEN + BAR AT TRAVAASA HANA
After a two-hour drive to Hana, I feel entitled to a good meal and a cold drink. At Travaasa, the upscale resort here in the town of Queen Ka‘ahumanu’s birth, Chef Jason Johnson has procured a menu befitting a queen. Formerly of the Big Island’s Volcano House Restaurant, Johnson incorporates local vegetables, fish, and Maui Cattle Company grass-fed beef in his menus; the tastes of Hana have never been better. If you arrive during happy hour, settle in at the open-air bar with a mocktail or cocktail infused with passionfruit, lime, and Maui pineapple, created by kama‘aina (native-born) restaurant manager Sharon Jahns. Try the chef’s popular tempura musubi trio filled with crab and lobster, charred hibachi eggplant, and pork belly. Or wash down a white-cheddar cheeseburger on brioche with a mai tai. If you favor something green, I recommend the arugula salad: goat-cheese and fig sprinkled with macadamia nuts and balsamic vinaigrette. At dinner, hibachi ali‘i mushrooms on parsley, cilantro and garlic-infused chimichurri sauce are a must-have appetizer. ‘Ahi and mahimahi pulled from local waters are seared to a tender perfection and served on a pool of creamy wasabi butter sauce, alongside coconut-jasmine rice and sauteed bok choy. Save room for white-coconut cake and Maui specialty coffees.
Travaasa Hana Resort
5031 Hana Hwy., Hana
MEDITERRANEAN GRILL / NORTH AND SOUTH INDIAN CUISINE
When Lebanese brothers Sal and Sam Balout shipped two fully equipped food trucks here from Oregon, they intended to sell Eastern Mediterranean cuisine all across Maui. After a few months, they parked the trucks permanently at Ha‘iku Marketplace. Locals have been queuing up to place orders ever since. At one truck, the Balouts serve generous portions of chicken or lamb shawarma, gyros, kafta, kabobs and falafel that carry customers on an exotic food journey to the brothers’ Middle Eastern roots. At the other, Harpreet and Jason Purewal dish up sublime northern- and southern-style Indian cuisine, sharing their families’ heavenly spiced foods. My favorite, masala dosas, is similar to crepes, but made with rice flour and fermented urad dal, and filled with curried mashed potato, onions and black mustard seed. It’s perfect for a snack or light lunch. A side of black-mustard-seed-studded coconut chutney is the classic condiment, but tamarind or mint chutney is a delicious tart-sweet stand-in for dipping. Try the chicken curry, chana dal salad, lemon rice and spiced raita, or vegetarian korma in cashew cream with coconut milk for a satisfying meal over yellow turmeric rice. Harpreet’s truck doubles as a coffee hub in the morning for those looking for a caffeine rush.
810 Ha‘iku Rd., Ha‘iku
FATT CHICKS BURGERS
Maui’s coconut wireless is abuzz, as locals and visitors discover this little jewel of a restaurant located on a knoll overlooking the pristine oceanfront Waiehu Golf Course. For breakfast, try the cornflake-crusted French toast made with egg-rich sweet bread and served with creme anglaise and maple syrup. For a true local-style option, Chef Bonny’s kim chee loco moco with ground-beef patties will fire up your 9 a.m. golf game, or keep you going well into your afternoon shopping spree. The oh-so-savory gravy and the limu kohu chili-pepper water accompanying the hamburger plate lunch could easily stand alone on white rice. Add the hamburger, and, bingo, it’s love at first bite. My Caprese burger — a chubby medium-rare meat-bomb on a toasted bun with roasted garlic pesto aioli, crispy fried onions, tomato, melted mozzarella and capers — came drizzled with a balsamic reduction and served alongside hot home-style fries. I need to go back for happy hour; I think the crispy chicken-wing appetizer tossed in kalbi sauce was calling my name. Catering and takeout are available, and FYI, ain’t no fat chicks here. . . .
Waiehu Golf Course
200B Halewaiu Rd., Waiehu
It’s morning, and you’re enjoying a scenic Upcountry drive — when hunger pangs distract you. Head to this local hangout and order the Maryland-style crab-cakes eggs Benedict on sauteed spinach, topped with buttery, house-made hollandaise. Or dig into white-chocolate macadamia pancakes with honey butter and maple syrup. At a recent lunch, friends raved about the fresh monchong on a bed of sauteed spinach with classic beurre blanc. The Bistro’s grilled chicken sandwich, dressed with pesto aioli on focaccia, is one of my favorite choices; it’s served alongside a Caesar salad generous enough for lunch the next day. Hamburgers made with 100 percent ground sirloin are cooked the way you like them. A stroll past the pastry case will challenge your will power with baked goods ranging from a chunky chocolate-chocolate macadamia cookie to liliko‘i (passionfruit) cheesecake. If you can’t pack any more into your tummy, I suggest a takeaway. You’ll thank yourself later.
4566 Lower Kula Hwy., Kula